“There was a time in my life when I would fight and work hard at vindicating myself, [but] through a process of years and the dregs of painful experiences, I have learned that I’m unqualified to do that, furthermore I do not learn when I’m busy about defending myself. It also distracts me from my calling, which is all part of the enemy’s plan. It’s easy to forget all that when there are spears coming your way.”
– Charles R. Swindoll, The School of Brokenness
The purpose of life is not learned at the pinnacle, more so at the precipice. The purpose of life is learned in the abyss; in clawing our way out through a hope that vanished long ago, that is clung to anyway. The purpose of life becomes apparent when an old life is discontinued for a new one that hasn’t arrived yet. Yes, in the now-but-not-yet reality, in the land-between-land.
The purpose of life can actually become apparent in crucible of criticism. If we stay the moment in faith.
When we face the crucible of criticism, and for a time spiral into the abyss, what have we with which to respond?
Nothing. It’s not our turn to react to the spears that whistle into our orbit in alignment with the Doppler effect. We let them whistle past us; through us if necessary. We have no purpose fighting. The purpose of life is not learned through fighting back; it’s hidden through taking vengeance. The purpose of life is learned through a humble reliance on God to vindicate our cause (Psalm 37:5-6) in His time and in His way. Even if that means death in the meantime. And rarely does it ever mean death, but it frequently means death to the self.
To react out of the indignation of pride, we should soon learn, is to wreak a disaster of repute we can all do without. All of us do things wrong. We will get it wrong from time to time. There will be regrettable embarrassments. But we’re right when we don’t fight back, and only wrong when we do. We best respond as if it didn’t happen, but without missing the lesson. Rather that than offer up a list of excuses.
One of the hardest examples of brokenness is criticism. Yet the best of brokenness is being broken to the point of learning acceptance.
Welcome the state of brokenness, for it holds open the purpose of life. Brokenness is the calling of the truly spiritual person. It makes us pliable to learn, to grow, to develop, to mature.
Only out of adversity, in due humility, do we turn inward the pain of reprisal, and cause that pain to be useful for a worthy response.
Stride into your calling. Stride in with your eyes wide open. Make testing an expectation of your daily reality. Everything is a test. Stop fighting. Accept brokenness.
Being acceptably broken is about accepting we cannot fix broken situations. We can only accept what we shouldn’t attempt to change.
The hardest thing to learn about brokenness is acceptance – to accept being broken. Take heart, however, for the rest of life is easy.
Steve Wickham is a pastor who holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling.
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